running blog

Clive Whaley

How Far I've Travelled

Day 100 - Marathon Training - Mixed intervals & Marathon Pace session
Plus Beard Removal and Haircut

YES - you read it correctly - DAY ONE HUNDRED of training so I thought it should be marked by a more significant event than just another training run. The beard has gone and the hair has been scalped. For athletes like myself - where the results are measured in 100th's of a second - the more streamlined contents of my head may make all the difference on the marathon course.
I don't normally have a beard. It somehow seemed the 'right look' for the training programme and now it's nearly over I've had enough of it.

The milestone of 100 days since I started training for the marathon has also got me thinking about how far I've come, not so much in miles of training over the last few months but in terms of mood, outlook, attitude to life and my place in the world since 2010. I may have run over 450 miles in training since 3 January this year but in recent years I have travelled thousands upon thousands of miles along the road from utter despair to the dawning of hope and have reached a slightly unnerving place called contentment every now and then.

Weds 24 November 2010:
"I sort of knew. I just knew that I was going to wallow in it today. That I was going to have a broken moment. That I was going to cry. But at this stage in the depression, when you have more awareness of what’s going on, you can almost plan for it. You can hold it off, almost schedule it, like an appointment or an exercise session - 'I’ll go for a run between 9 and 10' - 'I’ll have a mini breakdown between 9 and 10'.

And that makes it seem fraudulent. As though it’s on tap and you’re not experiencing it as some uncontrollable and awful condition. It’s a bit of play acting isn’t it? Something to make yourself feel a level of ‘controlled miserableness’ and to discretely let others know around you, just how bad things are. Like a child seeking attention, only because you’re an adult you do it in a slightly more subtle way.

It does feel a bit like this. But I don’t think it is fraudulent or contrived. I think in my case it’s due to ‘bottling up’ and ‘hiding’. For days and weeks I ‘bottle up’ an almost constant but nagging sense of shame and unhappiness and of life not being good – not being how it should be (Hah! I wear a t-shirt occasionally with the slogan ‘Life is good’). And the hiding is still mainly about keeping it from my daughters and to some extent my wife but the level of hiding to the outside world is almost total.

You can only bottle up and hide for so long before the low shaking and lurking in dark corners causes the cork to pop. I can hold the cork on the top while there is some fizzing and leaking until the girls have gone to school and I can sneak up to the bedroom and lie on the bed and then let it go.

I lie on the bed with my arms folded tightly across my chest. I feel shivery but I will not get under the covers. I have NEVER EVER got back into bed this whole time and it is a barrier that I do not want to cross. Laid out as though I’ve crawled into my own coffin I begin to silently cry. A trickle out of each eye. Two tiny streams competing to drip onto the duvet. I never actually fall fully asleep but partially doze my way through almost an hour before forcing myself to get up.

I would pay a lot of money for a Pull Myself Together switch. A little device that, with one press of a simple button, sends you out into a brave new world of opportunity where everyone is just waiting for you to walk by ‘Clive come here … you are just the man we need to take us in exciting new directions. We’ll pay you ridiculous amounts of money just to be yourself and to lead us to the promised land. No more worries for you my friend, come on down today’.

I knew I hadn’t had the full works. I hadn’t had the full wallow. I came down to the garden office. As soon as I had closed the door behind me it started. I sat on the office sofa with obligatory head in hands. Elbows resting on knees. I sobbed and sobbed. I wrenched it out. I not only need to cry. I need to make a sound. I need to produce a sort of rhythmic blub ‘huh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh… Huh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh …’ It is not at all therapeutic at the time but I think perhaps there is just a tiny smidgeon of help in the process a bit later. (I am writing this barely an hour after the event. Perhaps the small feeling of therapy is coming from this writing rather than the completion of the event.)

I have a desperate need to blow my nose. The ‘Mansize’ (Hah!) tissue in my pocket is already dirty and sodden so I pick up a bit of paper towel that was used yesterday as a ‘plate’ for a piece of cake. I tip nostril rivers of dribble and snot into the paper towel, scrunch it up and throw it in the bin. I sit back on the sofa. Silent now. Not better. Just blank. Or almost blank. I can feel the crusty dry stains of tears around my eyes on every slight movement of my face. Then I make exaggerated movements just to feel it again. To try and judge whether I can risk anyone seeing me without washing my face.

I almost feel nothing. But feeling nothing would be quite nice. There’s always a feeling of something. Something that you wish would go away."

I haven't over analysed it or over thought it but I guess running the London Marathon this year will be about so much more than completing 26 miles and 385 yards.

There will be the physical satisfaction, as a runner, in completing the ultimate challenge. There will be the banishing of demons that have been with me for more than 30 years - having started, but not finished, the race in 1986. There will be the pride that comes from representing my club (Bridport Runners) and from raising money to tackle the stigma attached to mental illness (for the charity Heads Together). There will be the even bigger pride of running for my family (my wife and both daughters are going to be there). But more than anything it feels like I am closing a chapter in my life in order to move on to a new and more deeply satisfying one - maybe several new chapters!

So the finish line in London, will be the start line of my new life - older, wiser, more accepting, more content, more optimistic, more hopeful, more loving … with knackered legs, a raging thirst and a medal round my neck.